Time and time again, Terry McLaurin continues to display how he's not afraid to step up in big moments when the team needs him most.
Last Sunday against Tampa Bay displayed a prime example of that when McLaurin hauled in a critical third-and-5 reception from Taylor Heinicke to keep the game sealing 19-play drive alive. Heinicke fired a dart to McLaurin on a slant route as he impressively held on while being sandwiched between cornerback Jamel Dean and safety Jordan Whitehead. After the catch, McLaurin stood up pounding his chest energizing both the sideline and excited FedEx Field crowd.
"I think that was probably one of my favorite plays since I've been in the NFL when you consider the circumstances of the game," McLaurin said of the critical catch. "To be trusted in that situation. You know it's going to be man-to-man, you know you have to win, the ball is coming your way.
"You make the play and you take a hit like that, you get up and you hype the crowd up. That was a fun moment for myself and my teammates. To come over and get the pats on the back, not more so that you made that play, but what it meant to everybody to see you do that. To take that hit and have no fear going over the middle and taking one for the team I felt like."
Tough catches like that aren't unique for McLaurin, who's proven to be Washington's most explosive and reliable weapon since being selected 76th overall in the 2019 Draft. Prior to this season, the young standout wide receiver totaled 145 receptions for 2037 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Through nine games in 2021 he has 49 receptions for 632 yards and four touchdowns, on pace to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards for the second consecutive season.
However, the hit against Tampa Bay isn't a rarity. McLaurin has consistently battled for catches in tight windows throughout his career. That propensity to make tightly contested catches has led to an accumulation of tough hits throughout his career. Yet, that doesn't deter the young wide receiver from still making those difficult plays to help the offense.
"That's developed over my last few years, I've always taken strength and conditioning very seriously back from Ohio State," McLaurin said of bouncing back from big hits. "Coming into the NFL I played significantly more than I did in college. So, over the season your body starts to get broken down physically. What I alluded to earlier in the season is how much effort and time I try to put into how to maintain and get better throughout the season."
After upsetting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 10, the Washington Football Team is back to work as it prepares for a road matchup against the Carolina Panthers (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)
Now entering the final eight games of the regular season, McLaurin remains committed to maintaining that strength and conditioning. His confidence in that preparation throughout the week of practice prevents any hesitation from running routes over the middle.
Washington's top playmaker realizes that making those challenging plays in the middle of the field are a necessary part of winning. Impacting the game in that way also offers McLaurin an opportunity to inspire some of the other players on offense, particularly some of the more young inexperienced wideouts on the roster.
"I know it's going to be physical, but at the same time I'm never afraid to go over the middle and put my nose in there, catching, blocking and things like that," McLaurin said. "Being a leader and the type of player that I am, I feel like that it's extremely important and very infectious to the other guys around you."